ID number: TQ.2014.015
Name of Interviewee: Elizabeth (Liz) Booth
Name of Interviewer: Nicky Ryden
Name of Transcriber: Nicky Ryden
Location: Liz’s home
Address: Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
Date: 4 July 2014
Length of interview: 0:52:03
Liz ‘s interview explores the first quilt she made for her grandson and the challenges she faced as a novice quiltmaker. She talks about what drew her to quiltmaking and fabric that is available, particular for baby quilts. Liz explains how she has shared her love of quilting with her daughter and how they have learnt different techniques and quilt blocks. Later in the interview she talks about the cost of fabric, her views on quilt heritage and the different purposes a quilt can have.
Nicky Ryden [NR] Liz, thank you for agreeing to take part in Talking Quilts. This is an interview between Nicky Ryden and Liz Booth and we are in Liz’s house in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Liz has brought… or has got with her, a beautiful quilt, her first quilt that she is going to talk about. So, would you like to tell me a bit about it Liz?
Liz Booth [LB] Well, I’ve always wanted to do some quilting and I said when I retired, I promised myself I was going to, but then about five years before I retired, no a bit less than that, a couple of years before I retired, my first grandson was born. I saw a pattern in a magazine and decided I would have a go, didn’t really know what I was doing, to say the least! Went out and bought fabric which I think half of is polyester, polycotton as well as cotton, because we don’t have a patchwork shop anywhere near us. So I just went in a local shop, and never thought about the size, turned out huge, I only had an ordinary sewing machine, no walking foot, no quarter inch seamer. Basically I’d got a sewing machine, and a lot of fabric, a 12 inch ruler, a patchwork ruler, and a small cutting board; and didn’t know to fold the fabric, so cut it all the way across twelve inches by twelve inches and guessed my quarter inch seam and the fact that it actually turned out a quilt at all is a miracle. But I had a lot of fun doing it.
LB I bought a fabric which was the only one they had that was childlike, which had Teddies on it, it also was in a sort of stripe. [NR Right] Which didn’t always cut straight,
LB I never thought about it, so I’ve got Teddies going in all directions, including one or two their heads I think [showing on quilt as speaks], it took five years to finish, but finish it I did.
LB The quilting left a lot to be desired, because without a walking foot, the quilt walked on its own!
LB …in all the wrong places, in fact in one place I think there’s a seam, a tuck, where I’d got so much spare fabric I had to cut it and take a piece out. And the main, big quilting in the middle I didn’t do. More recently I got a newer, bigger sewing machine and I brought it back from my daughter’s and finished the middle quilting, because I simply couldn’t get it through my little machine. I’d done what I thought was stitch in the ditch, which was just stitch over all the seams [showing NR].
LB It’s been washed a couple of times now and it’s still in one piece, so I guess it wasn’t too bad.
NR I think it’s lovely and I love… I think it looks really crisp with the blue and white gingham, and the white, plain white, the contrast.
LB My daughter loves gingham, so I thought I’d do it, so it’s got small gingham and a larger gingham and it was really about the best I could get to match it all in.
NR And that lovely wide border sets it all off.
LB And the actual binding is all wrong, because again I didn’t know what I was doing, and I asked in one of the shops, and she said, ‘You usually cut it two and a half inches’. So I cut it 21/2 inches, what I didn’t know was that I was supposed to fold it in half, so I’ve got a border on it that’s a good half inch to say the least [laughs].
NR But again I think that kind of gives it a nice edge, as well, it holds it altogether having the solid blue one inch edging to it.
LB Umm, it sort of breaks up the gingham… I put a dark blue background, on, back on it, which I’m not sure I’d do again because using white on the top, I’ve got a lot of little [showing to NR].
NR Oh, yes
LB … I’ve got a lot of little white speckles on the back but it’s not too bad for a first quilt and I did have fun doing it. Tore my hair out a few times, but I think the hardest bit was when I couldn’t get the quilting to work, because it was walking all the time and I just didn’t know what to do. I went to a show and I asked someone on The Quilters’ Guild stand and she told me where to go and what to get. So I went and invested in a walking foot, which was too late for this quilt, but certainly made life a lot easier.
NR So subsequently you, using the walking foot…
LB Well the new machine that I’ve got now has a built in one, and my daughter’s now got my old machine and the walking foot and she’s started quilting.
NR Fantastic. That passing of skills on to the next generation.
LB It would appear so! That’s where I end up [showing NR]
NR Oh yes
LB Quite a tuck in it there and a bag there where it sort built up.
NR But you see Liz you are the only person who knows that…
LB Well the gingham hides it.
NR Nobody else would notice that.
LB … if it had been plain it would have been more obvious, the gingham was perhaps a good choice in hindsight.
NR And I think all of us, I know I have, have had quilts that have had tucks in them, either on the back or somewhere on the front where it didn’t quite, it wasn’t quite smooth.
LB Oh, even now, I’ve done a few more quilts since but er… even now I won’t say it’s always perfect, but er… it sort of works. And like at the corners I didn’t know how to work the borders, so it just stops and looks a little bit odd, but er…
NR Yes, corners are difficult.
0:06:54 LB It was just off a magazine, and you had to cut a cardboard shape that you had to sort of draw round and I couldn’t get a pencil that would show up on the gingham, [laughter], getting ready to use a felt tip at one point, but I didn’t.
NR So lots of challenges for you as a beginning quilter, it’s obviously a special quilt because you said in spite of the frustrations and the challenges you had a lot of fun making it.
LB Oh I did, I did…
NR … and it hasn’t put you off has it?
LB Oh, no, I’ve made a few since. Yes, this one was special because I really didn’t know what I was doing, I sort of jumped in at the deep end a little bit. But I think I learned to swim more or less by the time I finished it.
NR And was it special as well because it was for your first grandchild?
LB Oh yes, I’d wanted a grandchild for ages [laughter] and, I mean my daughter was thirty before he was born, I was really excited about his arrival and wanted to do something special. It did take me five years to finish it, but… [laughs]. It kept going away when I got too frustrated then coming back out.
NR Have you ever thought about what somebody looking at your quilt might think about you as the maker? What do you think they might think?
LB I’ve no idea, I’ve never thought about it, from that point of view at all, I just… I don’t think my daughter’s overly impressed about it.
LB Well she is and she isn’t… but she doesn’t, she’s a very practical person, so it’s gone in his drawer more than its gone on his bed, but she did take it this year when they went on holiday. I think they did use it then, I’m hoping he will use it more as he gets a bit older.
NR Yes… I would… I don’t know about you but I would say quilts are very practical, you can use them in lots of ways, can’t you.
LB Yes, I think so, a child doesn’t see it that way, it’s up to his mum to do it, the quilt was on his bed and that was easier, he was also in a smaller bed, he’s in a big bed now, so it will be easier to put it on, it would have drowned the small bed. Because for some reason I didn’t really think about the size it was going to be, possibly because the pattern was in centimetres and I misread it, or whatever I don’t know, but it certainly grew.
NR It’s a lovely single bed quilt, it really is…
LB I’m hoping that he will keep it if he has children of his own.
NR … and these Teddy bears are doing all sorts of fabulous things aren’t they?
LB They’re in like vintage cars and trains…
NR Driving trains, there one here pushing a pram [looking at quilt].
LB It was the only sort of thing I could think of that was even remotely suitable for a boy from the very small selection they had in our local sewing shop.
NR Yes, it’s not easy getting things that will appeal to children.
LB Well, no, I’ve done a couple of baby quilts, proper baby quilts since and I must admit it’s been a case of using just a couple of baby patterns in with dots and spots and things. Because you can’t find a lot of baby patterns, I don’t think there’s a lot of baby patterns [sighs] no, that’s wrong, there are a lot of baby patterns but you can’t mix them very easily, that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s very visual fabric, but it’s not easy fabric in a lot of cases to cut down.
NR No, sometimes the images are too big aren’t they…
LB Yes, I think they’re made to do in 12inch squares, which I like a slightly more intricate one. I think of patchwork like jigsaws in fabric [NR: Right] and I love jigsaws [NR: Right], I suppose that’s where I like it because I see it as a puzzle that I’ve got to put it together. If they don’t cut out straight I get a bit frustrated because they don’t match. [Talking over each other].
NR You said that you thought about taking up quilting when you retired, but when your grandson was… or when you knew your daughter was having a baby, you began to make this quilt. But what attracted you to quilting, what made you want to do it?
LB I just loved the patterns, seeing pictures of them, I just think they are so absolutely fantastic, the old ones, the new ones, not perhaps the art ones, but the more traditional ones, I just love the colours and the patterns and things, I’ve always loved things like that. It’s just me… putting colours together and getting that lovely sort of pattern, I’m not saying that I’m very good at picking up colours, I’m not.
NR I think that something we all have to learn how to do. Lots of people are uncertain about colour when they start.
LB You find one colour that you like, then you’re faced with this room full of… [laughs] and its I like that one, and I like that one and that doesn’t go with that, and that clashes. Oh lord! And I feel like I’m sinking a bit sometimes, I still need a bit of help, a lot of help actually [laughs].
NR So how long have you been quilting for Liz, roughly.
LB Well my grandson will be eight in a couple of weeks’ time.
NR So about eight years.
LB Eight years, yes.
NR So you are still there still taking an interest, and learning more as you go along.
LB I’ve got a couple on the go at the moment, the biggest problem is I don’t have sewing room, so it’s on the dining room table and when anybody comes it all has to go away, then it comes out again, so it goes a bit in fits and starts and probably I do it more in winter. [Clock chimes].
NR So you have really taught yourself how to quilt haven’t you? You haven’t learned from anybody…
LB I have been on a course since and done a quillow, which taught us a lot of different techniques, some I liked, some I didn’t, but yes basically I am self-taught, from reading in a magazine, reading bits of books, asking questions when I meet anybody who did know what they were doing, but yes. I mean I’ve sewn most of my life always made, I made clothes a lot when I was younger, so I did know how to sew. Quilts were just a new venture [NR: New venture]. Something to keep me occupied now I’m retired.
NR Do you really need something to keep you occupied?
LB I’ve got quite a few things [laughter].
NR You’ve already said you probably spend more time doing it in the winter than the summer, but would be able to estimate how long you might spend quilting in a week?
LB Oh lord, no. Because, some weeks I might not touch it and then other weeks I might be at it every day if I’m free. I mean with the grandchildren, now there’s two of them, which I look after sometimes, my husband still works so I’m running around after him, I’ve got an elderly mother-in-law, a lot of different people wanting things so if I’ve got a free week I might do quite a bit of quilting, other weeks, it might be weeks on end and I don’t get chance to touch it.
NR Yes, it’s fitting it in with all the other things that are going on. Do you have a first quilt memory, something from the past perhaps that attracted you to quilts in the first place?
LB It might sound silly this, but seeing them on old westerns, when I was a kid, they just fascinated me. I used to like watching westerns, they were very popular when I was growing up. They often used to show quilts in the background, I used to like them, just always have. I tried hand quilting when I was younger, doing hexagons, I tried making a pin cushion, I got such a sore finger by the time I finished the pin cushion I didn’t touch it again for years [laughter]. I am now doing one by hand, [clears throat], but again I still can’t manage to use a thimble [NR: Yeah]. Me and thimbles do not get on. I work on it until me finger gets sore and then I put it away until it’s got better. Then I get it out again. I like that because I can take it with me when I go anywhere.
NR Yes, its portable, isn’t it.
LB On holiday and…
NR You mentioned your daughter, that she has begun to make quilts, are there any other quiltmakers in your family?
LB No, Mum sewed, and when she died we did find a small piece of Cathedral Window, that she must have been shown how to do somewhere. But, no she never did anything like that, she liked painting, but she did sew, she made most of my clothes when I was growing up, I suppose it led on from her sewing clothes, to me sewing clothes and onto the quilting.
NR And your daughter, what got her interested in… ?
LB She was off work with a bad back, and got bored, and came over and just started watching me, and decided she liked a bag I’d made, and she said I’d like to make one of those. So we spent a couple of days and I helped her as best I could, because I didn’t really know what I was doing either and she had a go. She made it herself and it turned out slightly better than mine, I think. She’s made quite a few since of the bags as presents and things and then decided she was going to have a go at a quilt, and I have to admit she did… her first quilt, which I don’t think it’s really quite finished, was all really quite intricate squares, and apart from one, which was the very first one she did, they all went into the quilt and they were pretty good. I was amazed by it. She’s made another one since that she has finished but the other one… but she’s a teacher and she doesn’t have much spare time, so really only has time when the holidays, so its fits and starts.
NR That must have been really nice, working together.
LB Oh it was lovely.
NR …making the bags, helping each other. Sharing.
LB Yes, I just told her what I knew, and she did actually do the same course that I did, with the quillow. We did it together, caused mayhem, but we did it together, we livened up the class [laughter]. On a couple of occasions there was one that I didn’t like doing that she didn’t mind, and one that I could do easier than her, so we helped each other out a little bit. One was, I think it was the Drunkard’s Path, it’s done on curves, because she isn’t a sewer, she found it very difficult to get all the pins in and get the curve on, so I sewed those while she sewed the other.
NR A co-operative effort.
LB Yes, I was on holiday in one of the classes so she did me some pieces to help me catch-up. So we worked together.
NR That’s really lovely.
LB We learned together…
NR Have you ever used quilt making to get through difficult times?
LB No, not really, I think, thankfully I’ve been very lucky I haven’t had any really bad times since I’ve been doing it. I think my daughter might do at the moment, but that’s another story. But I can understand how it would do, how it could be very good if you were very stressed. I find sitting and sewing quite relaxing and it does keep me out of mischief. My husband is not retired yet, so I’m on me own quite a bit, it does keep me out of trouble [laughter]. Or maybe it doesn’t when I go to the Quilt show [laughter].
NR Yes, it’s very hard not to spend your money on that lovely bit of fabric isn’t it?
LB Oh yes, you always need that little piece there, you’ve just got to have that one. He sees a quilt shop and starts going in reverse these days.
NR He’s learnt to recognise it, has he?
LB Mmm, I think so.
NR Are there aspects of quilt making that you don’t enjoy?
LB [7 second pause], Yes, sandwiching it… I haven’t got a big enough area to put it out, and I turn it and turn it and turn it, I get so frustrated with it, because I haven’t anywhere big enough, because I never seem to manage to make small quilts, I just never seem to know how to put them together, to get them straight. One quilt I’ve had done, quilted professionally and the difference is unbelievable. It’s beautifully done, but she did it on rollers. The others are all ever so slightly puckered and that, that’s part and parcel of them.
NR There is a charm to that sort of slightly handmade effect.
LB Sore fingers from safety pins and glue that got on the tablecloth and varying other aspects [laughs]. But once I’ve got the top finished, I want it finished, I want to make the quilt. I want to get to that point, I want it finished.
NR So what’s the best for you in making a quilt, do you think.
LB I enjoy putting the pieces together, the jigsaw aspect. I’m not overly fond of cutting it out, its back aching and a bit tedious at times. I enjoy sewing it all together very much and watching it grow. [3 second pause] I think that’s the bit I like best.
NR Yes, the actual making.
LB Yes, and trying out different patterns and seeing what they come out like.
NR Do you have a favourite technique..?
LB No I can’t say… apart from the ones we did on the quillow I haven’t done a lot of fancy ones, they’ve been mainly just fairly straightforward quilting, er patchwork. When we did that I liked the look of Attic Windows, I found it was an absolute pain to do. Tumbling Blocks I love, but it’s a lot of hand sewing and the finger gets sore, you know. I still feel like I’ve a lot more to do and a lot more to learn.
NR That’s part of the pleasure of it, something new to explore.
LB Oh yes, I just feel like a kid in a candy shop, I don’t know which way to jump next [laughter] which sweet to grab next.
NR When you are designing a quilt do you use any kind of technology, to help you with the design or to find ideas?
LB I’ll look on the computer sometimes, and I’ve got patterns out of magazines…
NR When you say you look on the computer, what sort of things will you be looking for?
LB Well, I did one for my spare bed, and I watch on YouTube, there was a lady, I can’t think… the Oklahoma Quilt Company and she actually showed you how to do this pattern and it looked so simple. It was done with a Jelly Roll and I had a Jelly Roll, and I went and did it. I was really pleased with it, it was so easy, but it looked so good when I finished it, and I don’t think I’d have seen it if it was in a magazine or a book, but because she showed it, how to do it, it was so easy. And I do watch some of the things on the telly and on the computer, usually visually I find you learn more watching somebody do it than reading it in a book. Sometimes I do find some of the books are a bit hard to follow, with some of the twisting and twiddling bits, I think well which way, you know, which way does that go? Yes, if you sit down with a piece of fabric you can usually fiddle it out but watching them on the telly or the computer does make it and there are some supper ones on YouTube now.
NR So that’s something you have found and found really useful, those demonstrations.
LB Some of them are perhaps what I would call too simple. I don’t like just squares, although this in more or less just squares [touching quilt]. I’m wanting now to sort of stretch and do more, sort of triangles and… I had a go at Flying Geese which are a little fiddly, they were two and a half inch ones, [NR: mmm!] I’m doing two Jelly Rolls in it, it’s taking a long time.
LB It took me four days to cut the first Jelly Roll out.
NR Yes, small pieces can look wonderful, but there is a lot of preparation time.
LB All of the Jelly Roll is cut out in two and a half inch squares and two and a half by four and a half inch squares or oblongs. The back gave out before the Jelly Roll ran out.
NR Yes, I know that feeling! You have said that you work in the dining room, and presumably that’s because that is the most practical space to work in?
LB Yes, I’ve got a nice big old fashioned table and it’s about the best space I couldn’t cut it out anywhere else. So I just put it all on there.
NR Have you thought about designing your quilts?
LB I’ve lots of ideas buzzing in my head but I’m not very good at art work, I’ve tried drawing things out when I’ve had ideas [clock chimes] and I’ve looked at them and thought ‘Oh lord, go back to a book!’ [Laughs] They don’t tend to come out looking very good, I will I am sure at some point have go. And I have done a baby quilt where I sort of laid out the squares and did a sort of chevron effect with them and that. I do things like that, but no I haven’t got into it to the point of having a design wall or anything like that, I’ve just ended up doing one project after another and haven’t run out of things to do yet, to need to do that. [Clock finishes chime]
NR It partly sounds though as if you might see something and think I quite like that and you’ll perhaps take that idea and tweak it your own way.
LB Yes that sounds about right.
NR So that is…
LB Like the Maple Leaf quilt, we went to York to the Quilt Museum, and there was an exhibition on, and a lady had done a quilt, maple leaves in black and white. Which was very nice, but the colours seemed wrong for me, and I’ve got some oranges and reds and yellows and did the maple leaves in those on a black background, and if I ever get it finished I think I will like it. But again I made a big mistake, I bought a sateen cotton, which if you get it the wrong way round shades.
LB So another lesson learnt there, but I’ll get on with it and finish. Another learning curve.
NR Yes, being inspired by something that you see and making your own interpretation.
LB Yes, because to me, maple leaves, like when we went to New England, they were such wonderful colours! Black and white just seemed to detract from it. They should be the lovely glowing autumn shades.
NR Do you have any idea how much you spend on quilting in a year.
LB I don’t think I really want to know [laughter], but I do know I spent close to £200 when I made me daughter one when she got married. Between £150 and £200 on fabric and wadding and backing.
NR It can be very costly for materials can’t it?
LB Yes, I shop around and try and find it where I can reasonable, and I have found a shop where it’s reasonable, unfortunately it’s not close by. Yes, it is limiting and as we get more into retirement I am sure it will be more limiting. I’ve built up a little stash of fat quarters and things, it will keep me going for a while.
NR Yes, you might find other sources.
LB Yes, I just see them in America and when you see the prices in America, I just envy them a bit sometimes, because they appear, I don’t know, but they appear so cheap over there and it’s so expensive here.
NR If you were looking at a quilt, what in your view would make a great quilt?
LB Oh crikey! I’ve no idea! It’s just as case of, you see something and like it. I couldn’t pick anyone thing out, it would be any particular shape or colour or pattern or anything, it’s just something that you see and it and you just think ‘Oh I like that!’ It’s a very visual thing to me, and when I see it I like it or I don’t like it. And some things catch me and I think oh I like that, I’d like to have a go at that, how have they done it. And I’ve sat having a deeper look at it but no I can’t say there’s any one thing that would particularly… it might be very plain it might be very complicated. It just catches my eye.
NR So it’s something that appeals to you, it might be the colour, it might be the pattern.
LB It might be the combination of colours, yes. I just love colour, which doesn’t help when you see lots of colourful ones, because you think I like that, then I like that, sometimes it’s very difficult to pin yourself down to one particular pattern or one particular piece of fabric or something. There’s the kid in the candy shop again, [NR: It’s that sweetshop bit again]. I’m just greedy really [laughter].
NR Greedy for sensation.
NR If somebody said to you about a museum collection, what sort of quilts do you think would be right for a museum or a special collection?
LB I think a variety of quilts, things that take a bit of everything, and some of the simpler ones, the pieces that people have done. Like when we went to the museum there was a piece of tiny hexagons, it was all in hexagons that somebody had done, it was only a piece, but it was very, almost poignant, because it was somebody had been working on that and it was so tiny and perfect. But it was totally unfinished, but that appeal to me as much as a lot of the fancy artistic ones. I think sometimes some of it is art for art’s sake. I like the things that people have done because they wanted to do something themselves, not because it was a piece of art work. Does that make sense?
NR Yes, it’s as if part of what appeals is that whole thing of somebody making something, the actual sewing together of…
LB Yes, it’s the fact, I suppose somebody lives on in that piece of work, and you have left something for, you have done it for somebody else, or because you love doing it. I think that enjoyment of doing it needs to show through. I see some of them and I just think it’s very nice, but as I said art for art’s sake. [NR: Yes] It’s hard to explain, but I do like the older pieces because I think they were done because it was a necessity, or it was to keep them warm, they used up the old fabrics. I know my daughter’s said, she’s said before today, ‘it seems like it’s against what the principle of it is, because I’m taking new fabric and cutting it up’. And she says ‘I thought it was to use up old fabric and make something from nothing’. And, yes it is, but modern fabric and modern clothes don’t work like that. But I am making the hand quilt and there are bits of fabric in that have been the children’s clothes and things from years ago [NR: Yes]. Unfortunately a lot of it is polycotton rather than cotton, so it’s not going to be a quilt in the true sense of being all cotton, and whether it will pull and pucker I don’t know. And that reminds me of another thing that happened with this one when I was making it, I didn’t know I had to cut the selvedge’s off either, [laughs]. I learnt that later too. There might be one or two in this one, but it hasn’t distorted it any more than I managed to. It’s been washed so with any luck.
NR Sometimes when you just want that eighth of an inch extra… mmm. I think that was really interesting, what you were saying about the meaning of quilts, and the sense of how they represent someone’s creativity that lives on afterwards. And then there’s that bit about the contrast between making quilts from new fabric, and that tradition in the past of making them out of what you’ve got.
LB Well I think they were done because they used up what was good out of old clothes because they didn’t have much and they needed something to keep them warm. So they made do and mend, and all the rest of it, cut their cloth to fit the coat or whatever! Whereas today they’re done purely as an art form, and I must admit I do like the old ones. They might not have been as pretty but I do think they had a charm because they were people’s lives, they were done because they needed them. That’s what I like about them, they were very muted as well, although mine aren’t, because I like colour. I do like to look at the muted ones, I think the muted colours, the old Civil War colours and things like that.
NR Although they might have been much brighter when they were first made.
LB Well, they might well have been, but I don’t think the dyes were as bright in those days either.
NR No that’s true. Is there anybody who is a quiltmaker, who you’ve looked at their work and it kind of influences what you do, or you think oh I like their stuff, I’ll get their book and…
LB I bought Jennie Rayment’s, whether I shall do much I don’t know, but I like her as a character and I think she’s wonderful for quilting because she makes it fun. She amuse me, but also she does a lot of, as she puts it tucking and twiddling, but it is fun. Perhaps not on a quilt scale but it is a bit more fun.
NR Is she somebody who you have seen demonstrating on You Tube.
LB I’ve seen her on the telly and I’ve seen her at a show, and she does books and videos and things. She’s just fun, she make it. But she’s quite schoolmarmish in some ways about it and get quite cross about telling you to use, to get, making sure you are cutting it on the cross and things like that, but she does explain it very well. I’ve watched her sometimes and I think Oh! I didn’t know that, so I do find I learn things from watching her, but she’s also amusing and entertaining, and I think that’s fun because sometimes it can get a bit leadened listening to somebody, because some people just drone [laughter] Well they do, they can put you to sleep long before you have made your quilt. [NR: Yes, right] And the lady, sorry, that was on YouTube, the one from the Oklahoma Quilt Company, I can’t think of her name, I can’t think of her name, Dona, that’s it, she’s very good. I’ve learned quit a lot watching her because as I say she makes it quick and very simple. And she doesn’t half explain it easily, she’s obviously done it for a long time, but she makes what looks complicated seem quite easy and straightforward [NR: quite easy and straightforward] Yes and it’s great.
NR Quilting, how do you feel about machine quilting or hand quilting?
LB Oh, I’m a machine quilter, hence the fact that… I can’t use a thimble I get a sore finger very quickly. I have done some and I will do it again, on small things. [Dog barks] Yes I do like it and I greatly admire some of it that has been done especially some of the old stuff, it’s absolutely wonderful, but I don’t think I’m that patient I’m afraid and I certainly aren’t that neat. I have done some, I was surprised I quite enjoyed it apart from the sore finger.
NR And what about longarm quilting?
LB Well I had one quilted like that and I did like it, I really did like it, it was beautiful. I didn’t have it heavily quilted, but it was beautiful when it was finished it looked much more professional perhaps but I don’t know that I’d have all of them quilted on a longarm. For one thing it’s too much money, but there’s a certain charm [Clock chimes] and fun to doing your own as well. It depends a lot on the size of your quilt I think. Pushing it backwards and forwards through a sewing machine is jolly hard work. And it is difficult to keep it flat and to sandwich it when it’s a big one. Yeah, I think there’s pros and cons for both.
NR This last sections a bit about the function and meaning of quilts, the first question is, why is quilt making important in your life?
LB For me it’s just a hobby, it’s a pleasure and I enjoy doing it, like doing a jigsaw, but with fabric and I’ve got something at the end of it, I don’t screw it up and put it into a box.
NR So it satisfies your creativity?
LB Yes and mostly I’ve done them for other people, given them away, I’ve just go one for myself at the moment and I’m on with another one for myself. It’s just a hobby.
NR Is doing them for other people important?
LB Yes, I like to, I’ve done three baby quilts and I enjoyed doing those immensely because I hoped that they would bring pleasure to the people that I gave them to. I did one for my daughter when she got married, she didn’t get it on time, but that’s beside the point, and she uses it a lot, I know she does. The grandchildren, not so much so but they have got them and it’s something they can remember grandma from when I’ve gone, I hope! My mother-in-law, whose ninety one, I did her some cushions for her birthday and the comment I got was, ‘Oh good, she said I hoped you’d do me something’. She seemed really pleased with them so, [NR: That’s lovely] I was glad I’d done them and I might even, might, do her a lap quilt or something. Although I’m not sure that would be appreciated or not. She’s a stubborn old lady who doesn’t like to admit to being old.
NR That might be acknowledging perhaps.
LB Mmm rubbing it in a bit.
NR Do you think quilts are important in British life or have been important in British life?
LB Important to the people who do them, I think a lot of people take my daughter’s attitude that it’s a waste of time and I can’t see why you want to cut fabric up to sew it back together again. I’ve a friend that thinks the same, she says I just don’t get it. But I suppose it’s my outlet for an art form, as for important, I don’t know, I don’t know, I wouldn’t like to say. To some people yes, to some people, totally unaware of it, totally unaware.
NR I think you are right. How do you think quilts can be used?
LB Well my daughter uses hers on the back of the settee, rather than putting wadding she’s put a super soft velour on the back and quilted through it. She just, if she’s tired or bored or cold she just snuggles underneath it and does that. She has the one that I made her for the wedding on her bed and she sleeps under it. I haven’t done yet. I think they look nice on a spare bed, I have one on the spare bed, I think it makes the spare bed look nice. The baby ones, I know people have used them, have put them on the floor and things. A lot of people don’t have carpets now, put a quilt down on the floor and the baby can lay on it or kick or crawl. They’re nice in summer. Lap quilts are nice for older people. A very mixed use really, decorative and practical.
LB Yes I think so. I know American make a lot for veterans, soldiers, we don’t seem to have that sort of, can’t think of the word, idea over here to do things like that, although I think recently I read something about them doing them for somewhere like a rehabilitation place. You can make them for there in England, but I know in America they seem to make them and just hand them out when they come back and things.
NR What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilt makers today?
LB In my case finding fabric, because there’s nothing local, it’s always a journey. The closest one is probably the best part of an hour’s run, a drive away, that’s got any decent quantity in it. And as you get older driving distances isn’t easy, plus the prices. That’s me on about prices again.
NR We have covered most things but is there anything else you wanted to say, that we haven’t covered?
LB I don’t think so, I would say to anybody who wants to have a go, have a go. It will not be as big a mess as you think it might be, because when you’ve got it all together, even though you know there’s lots of faults in it the overall effect is a lot better than you’d think it’s going to be. And as I was told remember to put your name on it.
NR Yes, and you have.
LB I have, although my daughter’s got the piece of fabric to sew on the back of hers and she still hasn’t , I’m going to pin her to the wall in a bit if she doesn’t sew it on soon [laughs]. I enjoy doing it, I’m pleased I started. With all the mistakes and everything, I look at them and I think, well yeah, but I learnt.
NR That’s right, we learn from our mistakes don’t we?
LB Yes, I learned, I think I will always be learning. An interesting learning curve.
NR Thank you very much Liz.
LB Thank you!